ASKED whether the last few weeks had been the most pressurised of his managerial career, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce could only smile.
“I was at Birmingham City when the chairman told me we had to get four points from our next two games and we lost the first one,” he said.
“I think that’s what I’d call pressure!”
In contrast to his experiences at St Andrews, the one reassuring thing for Bruce in what has undoubtedly been the most troubled spell of his time in charge of Sunderland, has been that owner Ellis Short and former chairman Niall Quinn have been rock-solid in their support.
But he is the first to acknowledge that it has been an uncomfortable time in the hot seat for him. He has not enjoyed these past couple of months.
His pride has been wounded by the questions being raised about his abilities. His feelings have been hurt by the the supporters who have turned against him.
But he remains the most dogged of characters and is determined to complete his original mission of making Sunderland a club that looks at home in the top half of the Premier League.
“It has been a difficult period for the club, but I’ve been a Premier League manager for a long time now and my experience has helped me,” he said, following Saturday’s 2-0 win at Bolton.
“The problem has been that we’ve never been able to quieten the storm since the second game of the season, when we lost the derby.
“I couldn’t quell the unhappiness of losing that match by getting good results afterwards and, with the results not going our way after that, it made things all the more difficult
“But I’m not going to be derailed from what I’m trying to do here because of that or because of all the things that surround that.
“The negativity we’ve gone through has not been helpful, but hopefully our season starts with this Bolton win and I do feel that the longer the season goes on the better we can get as a squad.
“Now we have to look to get back-to-back wins with the match against Aston Villa, because after that comes the nice easy game at Manchester United.”
Bruce (pictured below) knows that Sunderland are far from out of the woods yet and he has sympathy for the likes of former Black Cats’ boss Mick McCarthy, who came within a whisker of losing seven on the belt at the weekend, or Bolton boss Owen Coyle, who has lost all five home games this season.
“It’s the toughest league in the world and it’s very easy in the Premier League to go six or seven weeks without a win, or without a win at home,” he said.
“It’s something that you’re always wary of – even when things go well.
“But I know we’re improving and getting better and I know how much a better squad of players this is compared to the one I inherited.
“Ultimately, no matter what the ins and out, you get judged on your results and at least this weekend, we can say of the Bolton game: that’s a good result.”